Never mind that Mariah Carey’s on MTV and some godawful Clearchannel-funded hash is on the cover of Rolling Stone. If you’re thinking that alternative rock—I'm talking good, non-corporate, all-fun alternative rock--is dead, well it’s time to think again, baby.
Local boys, Maxtone Four led this St. Louis Thursday evening at Cicero’s with their solid musicianship that’s getting away from the 60s retro pop we heard a year or two ago and moving into the 80s. Think Rick Springfield or Joe Jackson: catchy poppy tunes with a splash of electronics. But if you’re afraid Maxtone Four is too tame for your tastes, you’ll rethink that idea after witnessing their cover of Electric Six’s “Gay Bar,” led by burly bassist Chris Clark and his closing the show with the drop of his pants.
Co-headlining the show with the Golden Republic, Aqueduct, was up next. From Seattle, this Barsuk Records band is true to its label’s reputation for hip indie music that often surpasses description—and definitely radio play. With dirty lyrics bouncing on 1950s Sha-Na-Na-style vocal backings, this band was the show the Cicero’s crowd was there to see. When the keyboards, pianos and drum machines didn’t do the job, lead singer/Aqueduct brainchild, David Terry was brave enough to pull off the brass section without the brass—using only his lips. Hysterical, bouncy and always entertaining, their original material was infused with re-engineered Aqueduct-style commercial rap songs. But their silliness belies the fact that some of their tunes are smart and heartfelt—think Ben Folds with a synth. Still don’t believe these frumpy, tuneful teddy bears have talent? Dig this: they are one of the few bands to successfully rein in a scattered, unfilled room of slackers, turning them into a tight congregation of dancing fools up front. And all this on a Thursday night.
Aqueduct was a hard act to follow, but The Golden Republic pulled it off in spades. Promoting their eponymous release on cooler-than-cool label, Astralwerks, this quartet from Kansas City is positioned for huge success. The only criticism this band has had is their dipping into such a wide variety of musical genres: glam rock, alt-indie and alt-country, 60s pop bubblegum, and everything in between (see our interview with lead singer Ben Grimes, to be posted in the next few days). By the third song, “Not My Kind,” everyone was back on the floor, dancing alongside Beatle Bob. Keeping the fun spirit that Maxtone Four and Aqueduct had laid out as a foundation for the evening, the guys threw in a few riffs of T-Rex’s “Get It On” before launching into the lush, “Things We Do.”
“Is this pleasin’, or hurtin’?” Ben Grimes hollered into the mic to the audience. “Pleasin’!” they responded. “Well then, turn it up!” he called to the soundman with an infectious grin. He then broke into “You Almost Had It,” explaining that it begins in the chord of D minor, “the saddest of all keys.” The catchy-sad melody brought the kids right back to the front where they stayed for “She’s So Cold.” The only real complaint was that, at 12:30 p.m., the band had only played about eight songs and despite the late hour, the crowd could have handled about 800 more. In fog and colored lights, The Golden Republic closed with the coolest track on the CD, “NYC,” which for reasons unknown but no less amusing, they dedicated to the band Poison. Be sure to check out The Golden Republic’s CD to keep the great vibe going for yourself.
Pictured: The Golden Republic Photo credit: J. Gordon